On LessWrong, we have a sort of hierarchy of posts:

  1. Curated
  2. Front Page
  3. Personal Blog
  4. Open Thread / Short Form

Here I'd like to experiment with a fifth: the Babble Thread.

What is babbling? Babble is the post that introduced the concept, I believe. The Babble and Prune tag is also worth checking out. But for me, seeing the Babble Challenges as a concrete example is what made the concept click.

In this thread... babble away! About anything! Share your ideas, and don't hold back! It's ok if they end up being wrong or silly. The purpose here is just to babble. Some ideas for what to babble about:

  • Important problems like AI safety
  • Useful things like life hacks
  • World modeling, like how efficient you think the market for prestige in academia is
  • Reflections on your personal life
  • Trivial things like how hard it is to tuck your bed sheets in properly
  • Ideas for startups or scientific experiments

To this end, I think it'd make sense to avoid commenting on others' babbles. It seems best to make this more of a safe space where you can babble without fear of being judged.

However, pruning does have a place too. I think a good balance would be to allow upvoting on top-level comments (babbles) as a means to do some initial pruning and identify ideas worth following up on for further pruning. If we want to be really strict about it I think we'd separate this upvote/initial pruning step from the generate ideas/babble step, but as a practical matter it'd be easier to upvote in this thread.

I'm not attached to this approach by any means, so please comment in the top level meta comment if you have thoughts on how this Babble Thread should be structured.

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Mental health as x-risk reduction.

Assumptions. People push hard for profit because they have inner demons, and hard profit seeking is something that is bad for AI safety. Then for things like nuclear war, perhaps such human conflicts would be significantly less likely to occur if people didn't have inner demons.

Similar points could be made for happiness, with mental health being "move you from being in the red to being even" and happiness being "move you from being even to being in the green".

Creating new types of threads like these are cheap experiments that seem worth doing more of.

{I don't know how long these can be but this might be a long post, mostly a vent on frustrations with online none university learning}


When I search for a new skill to learn there are hundreds and hundreds of tutorials and websites and courses that are instantly presented. Some of them seem more high quality than others, which is easy to tell both from websites hosting them (Khan Academy, etc), and then the ratings those individual courses have inside the websites. But there is also free vs paid courses. As somebody who has tried many open online learning courses (for coding) free and paid, I find the quality between them usually comparable. So when finding a new paid course which is supposedly good I am much more hesitant about actually paying for it feeling like I could find something for free that would do at least a similar but maybe slower job.

There is also the problem with the amount of depth covered in both free and paid courses.  I have taken many free coding courses that give you all the basic building blocks with very small intractable programs that basically has you do extremely specific things to make the code run. But coming out of these courses I felt like there was huge gaps of knowledge missing. Sure I can write a loop and put data in a list, but there is a big step between doing that and making a web-scraper, or doing that and analyzing data. Some courses offer too little content, and some courses offer too much content with no depth. I say they offer to much with no depth because I have seen many machine learning courses that also include an intro to python programming with them. Maybe it would be good for established coders who just need to learn syntax, but I am less optimistic that they were the target audience. 

So what I have found in online programming courses is that there is a huge amount of them, usually sticking to introductory level topics, and they either offer only the basics or give a little taste of everything at a blazing speed. 


Coding is also one of the lucky ones for online learning, today I was searching for electrical engineering courses. I think that one point it would be good to learn electronics and how to create robots / other parts to that use electricity.  I found a few courses across coursera and edx that were interesting, but the problem is I don't even know where to start. Coding at least has beginner programs labeled as such. As I try to pick beginner electronics courses or pick more higher level coding courses, its gets harder to weed out good from bad because I am not even sure what I am looking for. Or if it will be pragmatic to my goals of (learning to build small machinery, or becoming a programmer for a large company). Or the courses straight up don't exist because they are for too niche audience, its just random articles on the subject scattered across websites.


About a week ago a stumbled on this https://github.com/ossu/computer-science . I'm glad I did mainly because they offer a clear sense of progression on what getting more knowledgeable at computer science fundamentals would look like. Since I did not major in computer science I have no idea and I am fully trusting them on blind faith, but it is the best I have found and I am sticking too it. 

I wish there were more resources like that. Khan Academy does good progressions with Math (I haven't looked at their other courses). But having a path forward is hugely beneficial, I don't feel like I will be trapped in Autodidact intro to python hell.

 It would be nice if there was a website that offered basically an undergraduate course list equivalent for a wide range of subjects (Coding, Engineering, Biology, Botany) made up of other sites learning resources, like the github link above for everything. If I cared about the accreditation for biology I would go back to college, but it be nice to have a site that would give learning progressions so I could know up an undergrad level what is going on.

Maybe I'm being to harsh on the online courses I have taken so far, but I still think a progression system would greatly help new learners, even competing progression systems can be made and then learners can cut out the differences between them to find what truly matters.


tl;dr: For me online learning had been an slog, with an overwhelming amount of choices for some skills and no choices for others. I find most of the overwhelming skill choices to also be either not enough information or too much information spread to thin over the entire discipline. I also think its hard to new learners to be become comfortable with there skills because they no idea how to progress further with them after their course.

I think a solid solution to this would be to create a website or websites that basically act as an undergraduate course list for all major skills taught about online. With the website(s) pointing to other courses online appropriate with the learning skill level and offering the learner a progression guide on where to go next with their skill.

If nobody else wants to make, I just might. 


Feel free to post your thoughts about this idea too, and if you know of any good electronic engineering courses please let me know.

To talk about meta-level stuff such as how this Babble Thread should be structured, please comment here.

I suggest relaxing the rule "don't comment on top-level comments" to something like "only positive comments, and no sooner than 3 days after the top-level comment was written".

Because, some comments may start a useful discussion. That can happen here, in a private message, or not at all -- I think the first option would be the best.

Reading the OP quickly, I wasn't entirely sure what I was supposed to babble about... "100 ways to light a candle" is easier than "...anything" :) 

Consider giving some prompts that people could default to, unless they have something else in mind already?

Thanks for bringing this up. I'll edit to make it more clear, but I what I'm going for here is "anything".

It seems to me like there should be a place for "anything babbles" for people who do have things that come to mind they want to babble about, and also a place for "prompted babbles" for people who need the prompt and because it's cool to see how other people babbled on the same topic you're babbling about.

I misread your comment initially. Now I see that you specify prompts that people can default to. That seems like a good idea. I'll add some.